HOK #133: Meet Barbara Brown

A portrait of Barbara Brown with a grey background.
Barbara Brown is a local photographer who has a connection with nature. Provided photo.

I grew up in Hintonburg and went to Elmdale Public School, Connaught Public School, and Nepean High School before moving to Kingston. I studied fashion design when I was 18 – mostly just to get out of town.

When I graduated I was 21 and got a job in Nova Scotia as a pattern marker. But it really wasn’t for me, so I quit after less than a year and went to Banff. The pinnacle of life in Banff is to teach skiing, so I got qualified and I got a job teaching skiing at Sunshine Village. 

Banff has a fabulous arts centre with professional artists as teachers, so I took evening classes. During the summer I was there, I got a scholarship to study with some of the most renowned artists in the world; Rousseau-Vermette, Naomi Kobayashi, Phillip Warner, and Gerhardt Knodel.

I did my undergraduate work at Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design University in Fine Art and Textiles. From there I attended a summer workshop at Haystack in Maine with (American artist) Sheila Hicks. She invited a small group of the workshop participants to come to Paris to work as apprentices in her studio. While I was there I studied french. I worked in Sheila’s studio for two years. She then encouraged me to do my graduate work in Manchester, England.

When I graduated I came back to Canada and did a couple of public commissions.  In the early 1990s there wasn’t much call for large artwork, so I started doing my own personal work in sculpture and drawing. I did that for about 15 years and then migrated towards photography. 

Thirty plus years ago, I got a job in long term care to support my studio work. One day my manager asked me to start a new program for the dementia units, where the residents were all veterans, who responded well to my year-round gardening program. I also did a lot of photography. I just really tuned into that connection we have with plants, and it’s no surprise that my art has been often based on the cycle of life and the changing of the seasons. 

Japan is high up on my long list of places that I would like to visit – and I have started classes in ikebana, the Japanese art of floral arranging. Italy is close to the top of my want-to-visit list and I’d like to seek my ancestral roots in Ireland, England and Scotland.

Kitchissippi has a high quality of community living. It’s a solidly connected place with people who have been here a long time. People get involved and that leads to an enriching life and place to live. 

Story collected by Millie Farley

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